British Airways

K. Rajshekar & Aarthi G Krishna,

Company Secretaries,

# 104, 4th Main, 10th Cross,

Malleswaram,

Bangalore-560 003. …. Complainants.



-V/s-



British Airways Plc

Amanda Jane Amos-Attorney of

The Company in India,

IA-Connaught Place, New Delhi.

Branch Offices at:

Room No.25, Administration Block,

Indira Gandhi International Airport,

Terminal II, New Delhi-110 037.

&

Unit 502, 5th Floor, Prestige

Meridian II, M.G. Road,

Bangalore-560 001. …. Opposite Parties.

ORDER

This complaint is for a direction to the opposite parties to pay Rs.1,95,018/- towards purchase of new tickets and Rs.18,00,000/- towards mental agony, torture, shock, insult and humiliation. The case of the complainants is as under:-

On 21.09.2007 the complainants booked for 13 days Antarctica Expedition with Cruise Line Hurtigruten of Norway by paying 1000/- $ for booking amount for the tour commencing on 11.02.2008 with option to join the tour either from New York, USA or from Santiago, Chile. They chose to take the direct flight from Bangalore to Santiago in order to reduce on the travel and waiting time.

After consultation with the travel agents and web browsing they found that British Airways (the opposite party) had the best connectivity with less waiting periods from Bangalore to Santiago via London and Sau Paulo. On 24.09.2007, four and half months in advance they booked two round trip tickets online through their website for onward journey starting on 05.02.2008 from Bangalore and return on 21.02.2008 from Santiago. The cost of the ticket was Rs.84,509/- per person i.e., Rs.1,69,018/- for two of them. Had the complainant opted for the tour from New York, the cost of the ticket from Bangalore to New York would have been Rs.48,000/- per person i.e., 56% of the cost paid for travel to Santiago directly. During January-2008, they contacted the Airline for postponement in the date of departure by making repeated calls to their Call Center for guidance to make booking changes online, but the same was not possible. On 03.01.2008 Mr. Anirban the Call Center staff suggested to go to British Airways office in Bangalore and get the date changed.

Accordingly on 04.01.2008 they met Mr.Siddarth at British Airway’s, Bangalore office and rebooking was done for change in onward and return journey dates to 09th and 20th February 2008 respectively by paying additional amount of Rs.13,000/- per person. Thus the total Airfare paid on each ticket was Rs.97,509/- i.e., 100% more than Bangalore - New York Airfare. They specifically asked Mr. Siddarth whether a Transit Visa can be obtained as there was a waiting period of 08 hours in London, but he said that, it was not possible to get Transit Visa. During this conversation there was no mention of requirement of Visa. After getting good health report from Columbia Asia Hospital they applied for Tourist Visas for Chile and Argentina and also purchased special clothing for expedition and made all arrangement well in advance. They received several e-mails from British Airway’s intimating a change in Flight Timings, confirming the meal request and they also received the e-mail on 08.02.2008 stating that, the gates were open for Online check-in.

They followed all the instruction in the mail, checked-in online and printed the Boarding Pass for onward journey. At 5.00 AM on 09.02.2008 they were at the check-in Counter of the British Airways at the International Airport, Bangalore. Since the Boarding Pass were already available, they expected to check-in their baggage and move on. But Ms. Jacquelene, the check-in staff after verifying the passport and boarding pass, pronounced that she will not be able to Board them, because they do not have direct access transit Visa (DATV). The complainant tried hard to explain to the said staff that neither the British Airways website nor Mr.Siddarth who reissued the tickets on 04.01.2008 informed regarding the requirement for DATV nor they were halting at London and not even changing the terminal at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 4 was both for Arrival and for Departure to Sua Paulo, Brazil.

They had already spent Rs.8,00,000/- for the trip and at any cost they had to be at Santiago on 10.02.2008 to catch Chartered Flight to Ushuia, Argentina to board the MS FRAM SHIP for Antarctica expedition and they will loose the entire money if they did not make it to Santiago on 10.02.2008. But the said staff was not willing to listen to them and told that they should go back, obtain DATV and come back after 4 days. The complainants made calls to the cruise agent Mr. John Ambat at Kolkata to enquiring the consequences of not traveling and were informed that neither the refund will be given nor they can be accommodated in the next sailing. After lot of persuasion at about 6.00 AM they were told that traveling through USA did not require a DATV. Just one hour before boarding gates closed they decided to re-route their travel through New York. To that also the British Airlines staff said that, the booking was not possible at that hour and they had to wait till the booking counters opened in the city.

After much persuasion, Ms. Reshma issued fresh onward tickets for travel from Bangalore-London-New York-Santiago which costed the complainant Rs.97,209/- per person namely Rs.1,94,418/- for two persons. At 6.45 AM the itinerary were printed and handed. However the flight was delayed by one and half hour due to leakage of fuel. In view of re-routing they had to travel non stop for more than 38 hours and to return to India only after 13 days. 09.02.2008 being the Saturday the British Airways Call Centre was closed. Ms. Reshma was requested to cancel the onward tickets i.e., Bangalore-London-Santiago sector, so that refund process could begin immediately. The flight took off at 9.00 AM on 09.02.2008 and reached London at 2.30 PM on the same day. They boarded New York flight at 3.30 PM and reached New York at 6.45 PM and thereafter boarded the flight to Santiago at 10.00 PM and reached Santiago at 12.40 PM on 10.02.2008 and thus they traveled continuously for 38 hours without proper food and sleep.

On the way back from Santiago to London via Sau Paulo they had one more horrible experience at the hands of British Airway’s staff on 20.02.2008. Ms. Lara claiming to be the Customer Service Agent of the British Airway’s informed the complainants that they will not be able to board Sau Paulo-London flight due to uncleared Luggage at Terminal 4 of Heathrow Airport at London and asked them to give Passport, boarding pass and baggage tags so that she can find solution. Instead of explaining the problem, Ms. Lara started threatening that she will not allow them to leave the Airport and will call the Police to detain them. The complainants did not have any choice but to handover all the documents and waited for three hours. Finally another BA staff gave the boarding pass and returned the passports. They returned to Bangalore on 21.02.2008 and made several attempts to contact the Bangalore Airport BA office to find out if the cancellation of tickets requested on 09.02.2008 was done but did not receive any response.

On 22.02.2008 they sent an e-mail to check on the status of the refund claim. They received an e-mail asking for credit card number and address for communication and committed that the refund will be credited to the credit card. The details requested were sent by e-mail on the same day. They were told by the call center of the British Airways that the refund will be processed in 5 weeks time. On 01.04.2008 they were asked for tickets and the same were also sent immediately. In spite of repeated reminders, the refund was not made. The complainants had taken abundant precaution to book Cruise and, Flight tickets six months in advance and read all the instruction mentioned on reverse side of the tickets carefully and also on the BA website.

But no information was available either on BA website or on the tickets regarding the requirement of a DATV for travel through UK. Even Mr. Siddarth who reissued the tickets was not aware of requirement of DATV for all passengers who are transiting through Heathrow Airport and did not inform about the requirement. If the complainants had known about DATV requirement earlier, the tickets could have been re-routed via New York and saved nearly Rs.1,00,000/- or could have obtained the Transit Visa costing Rs.2,000/- or even opted for a different Airline thereby avoiding London Transit and saved more than Rs.3,00,000/-. At least at the time of web check-in at 1.00 AM on 08.02.2008 and before printing of the Board pass if the system had asked for the DATV or cautioned on the requirement, they had one day’s time to think of other options and could have saved lot of money. It was the responsibility of the Airlines to ask for the DATV at the time of web check-in and publish on their website and on tickets about the requirement of United Kingdom Visa.

The opposite party took advantage of the situation and charged Rs.97,209/- for one way ticket whereas the original booking costed Rs.97,509/- for the round trip. They had to pay Rs.1,95,018/- just before boarding the flight for not having a Visa that costed Rs.2,000/-. The staff of the opposite party just thought about only onward journey and assured that DATV was not required if the travel was back to India. The official foreign office website of UK mentions that Visa is required for both onward and also for return journey. They would have got in to the same problem on 20.02.2008 in London Airport if they had not re-routed the tickets at Sau Paulo because of the luggage problem at Terminal 4 of Heathrow Airport. Till the date of complaint fore more than 9 months the refund of the amount has not made. The opposite party has not even given any reply to the notices. Hence the complaint.


2. The contention of the opposite parties is as under:-

The opposite party is a reputed service oriented internationally acclaimed air travel service provider with all the necessary processes in place to address and redress the queries of its passengers as well as to provide all necessary assistance to its passengers.

The complaint is filed with malafide intention to harass the opposite parties and to make unlawful gain. The complainants are not entitled to any compensation as the claim is highly exaggerated and arbitrary and without any reasonable justification. A person who has traveled as extensively as claimed by the complainant should be aware of such norms and the service provider is not obligated to and cannot be held liable for such information which the complainant may need to have procured from the relevant immigration authorities or the relevant websites of such authorities. On their own accord the complainants chose to fly through British Airways and booked the tickets on their own for their journey. The journey dates were rescheduled as per the request of the complainants to suit their travel plans. It is false that the complainants spent an hour with the staff of the opposite party enquiring about transit visa. They met Mr. Sidarth to change their travel dates and to book the tickets.

Mr. Sidarth answered all the questions raised by the complainants and informed that the complainants need to obtain direct airside transit visa (DATV) to travel to UK to take connecting flight to proceed on their journey. If the complainants wanted any clarification with regard to requirement of visa the same could have been clarified through their visa agents, through whom they processed their visa stamping. The staff of the opposite party specifically advised the complainants that DATV is required for all the passengers traveling to UK to take connecting flight for their onward journey. But the complainants neglected the above advice and are now blaming the opposite party for no fault. At the airport the staff of the opposite party was trying to explain that without DATV the complainants cannot travel to UK. The immigration rules of UK prescribed that a person traveling to UK in order to travel to another destination need DATV, unless the same is exempted.

The staff of the opposite party only informed that the complainants about the legal requirement to be complied. The complainants ought to have enquired with their visa agents about the requirement of visa or types of visa for such travels and should have obtained DATV visa. The allegations in Para16 & 17 of the complaint are made only with an intention to gain sympathy of this Forum in order to buttress their other wise claims. After finding that the complainants had valid US visa the staff of the opposite party provided them an alternate plan of traveling through USA so that they reach in time for their expedition and it does not require DATV. After issuing the tickets the staff of the opposite party immediately printed and issued the travel itinerary and provided all the necessary assistance to the complainants in a short span of time, only with an intention that the complainants should not miss their expedition to Antarctica and made all the necessary arrangements to cancel the earlier bookings in order to facilitate refund process for the cancelled tickets. The complainants were provided their meals and other facilities as requested by them.

The staff of the opposite party had begun the process of refund of the amount for cancellation tickets. To expedite the process the request was forwarded to the concerned dealing with refund. An e-mail was sent to the complainants up-dating them on the developments in the process of refund for the cancelled tickets. The travel documents were collected from the complainants only to find a solution with respect to uncleared luggage. The problem of non clearing of the luggage was due to some problem at the terminal in the airport and the staff of the opposite party cannot be held liable for the same. The complainants sent two tickets for refund to the e-mail address of the opposite party.

The request for refund of the cancelled tickets for the unused sectors BLR-LHR-GRU-SCL was considered as per the refund reference ATSR – BLR 2091. As per the standard guidelines prescribed by IATA (International Air Transport Association) for refunding the amount for cancelled tickets, the fare applicable for used sector is taken into consideration. One way fare to the sector SCL-GRU-LHR-BLR and world traveler plus [W] class is up to 3770 US $ equivalent to INR 1,95,780/-. The original ticket was issued on combination between ‘K’ and ‘S’ class and the cost of the original ticket was Rs.66,000/- + Taxes Rs.18,509/-, in all Rs.84,509/-. After cancellation the tickets were re-issued for out bound journey. The tickets were re-priced in ‘K’ class and an ADC of Rs.12,000/- was charged as the combination of ‘K” and ‘S’ class was not available.

The departure penalty along with ADC and the fare difference was close to Rs.10,000/- which rises the ticket cost to Rs.78,000/-. On comparison of one-way fare (3770 US $ or Rs.1,95,780/-) applicable to the travel sectors which is more than the ticket price. The opposite party could refund the unused taxes of an amount of Rs.6,436/- and the same was calculated on the basis of IATA guidelines and the amount was refunded to the credit card account of the complainant on 08.05.2008. The entire fare could not be refunded as the utilized coupons were more expensive than the price of the tickets. The allegation that the staff of the opposite party did not inform the complainant about the DATV is denied.

All the other passengers traveling on the flight were having necessary visa including DATV and only the complainants had neglected to obtain the same. The complainants landed up in such a situation only because they were negligent in taking DATV for their journey to UK. The claims are highly exaggerated and without any reasonable justification. The demand for compensation is a complete abuse of genuine consumer rights and against principles of natural justice. The complainants have filed this complaint on false and flimsy grounds and therefore the complainants are not entitled to the relief prayed for.

3. The complainants have filed rejoinder to the version re-affirming the statements in the complaint and repudiating the contention of the opposite parties in the version.

4. In support of the respective contentions, both the parties have filed affidavits and have produced copies of the documents. We have heard arguments on both sides.

5. The points for consideration are:-

(1) Whether the complainants have proved deficiency in service on the part of the opposite parties?

(2) Whether the complainants entitled to the relief prayed for in the complaint?

6. Our findings on the above points are:-

POINT No.1:- In the Affirmative

POINT No.2:- As per the final order

REASONS

POINT Nos. 1 & 2:-

7. Admittedly for the Antarctica Expedition that was to commence on 11.02.2008 the complainants booked round trip tickets with the opposite party on 24.09.2007 more than four months in advance, they paid Rs.84,509/- per person towards the ticket costs and subsequently on 04.01.2008 they got the tickets re-booked with regard to the onward journey by making payment of additional sum of Rs.13,000/- per person. On 09.02.2008 they were denied boarding for want of direct access transit visa and therefore they purchased fresh tickets for onward journey paying Rs.97,209/- per person. On 09.02.2008 itself they requested the opposite party to cancel the onward tickets of Bangalore-London-Santiago sector and to refund the amount paid for the same. The grievance of the complainants is two fold, namely:-

(a) Not informing them about the requirement of direct access transit visa and

(b) Not refunding the amount towards cancelled tickets.

It is the specific contention of the complainants that, though they booked the tickets more than four months in advance on 24.09.2007 and rescheduled the onward journey on 04.01.2008 they were never informed by the opposite party regarding the requirement of direct access transit visa in short DATV. It is contended that on 04.01.2008 at the time of re-booking the tickets for onward journey they specifically asked Mr. Siddarth about the requirement of direct access transit visa, but he answered that it was not required. In the e-mail dated: 18.02.2008 as well as in the notice dated: 19.04.2008 the complainants have maintained that they were not informed about the requirement of DATV either on the website or by Mr. Siddarth. As against this in the version it is contended by the opposite party that Mr. Siddarth as well as the staff of the opposite party advised the complainants that DATV is required for all the passengers traveling to United Kingdom to take connecting flight for their onward journey, but the complainants neglected the advice.

When the complainants have specifically contended that Mr. Siddarth never informed them about the requirement of DATV and such information is also not available in the website of the opposite party, it was necessary for the opposite party to at least file the affidavit of Mr. Siddarth to the effect that the complainants were informed about the requirement of the DATV or to produce the copy of the website containing the information regarding the requirement of DATV. In the absence of such evidence we have no reason to disbelieve the contention of the complainants that staff of the opposite party never informed them about the requirement of DATV nor the website of the opposite parties contained the information in that regard.

The requirement of DATV is for such passengers who go to United Kingdom to take the connecting flight for onward journey. According to the complainants as per the journey scheduled in the first instance they had to wait for about 8 hours in London and that was the reason for obtaining DATV. Admittedly the opposite party British Airways is also from U.K. and therefore it is presumed that it is well aware of the requirement of visa of its country. The opposite party being air travel service provider which claims that it has all the necessary processes in place to address and redress the queries of its passengers so as to provide all the necessary assistance, it was necessary to disclose the information regarding the requirement of DATV on its website.

At least the staff of the opposite party would have informed the complainants about the requirement of DATV when they went to the office of the opposite party on 04.01.2008 for re-booking the tickets with regard to the onward journey. Therefore, in our opinion, not giving information regarding requirement of DATV amounts to deficiency in service on the part of the opposite parties. When the opposite party has provided the facility of booking the tickets on-line it was necessary to disclose the necessary information with regard to the requirement of direct access transit visa on its website. By not providing such information in advance as in the case of the complainants the passengers will be put to unnecessary inconvenience at the last moment. In the first instance the complainants booked the tickets four months in advance and they got the onward ticket re-booked on 04.01.2008 one month in advance from the date of commencement of the tour.

If the opposite party had provided them the information regarding requirement of DATV it would not have been difficult to obtain the same in one month’s time from 04.01.2008. At the same time it appears to us that, the complainants are equally negligent in not enquiring with the immigration authorities regarding the requirement of DATV. It is not as if the opposite party themselves are the authority for issuing the visa. For the purpose of obtaining the visa the complainants had to approach other authorities. They claim to have obtained tourist visa for Chile and Argentina through M/s. Udaan India Private Limited the well known visa agent at New Delhi. It is not known why the complainants failed to enquire at least with the said agency regarding requirement of DATV. If the complainants had made proper enquires with the appropriate authority regarding the requirement of DATV they would not have been placed in a situation they faced in the airport on 09.02.2008.

Therefore in our opinion both the parties have equally contributed negligence with regard to requirement of DATV. Though the complainants have purchased round trip tickets for Rs.84,509/- for each of them they had to pay Rs.97,209/- for onward ticket for travel from Bangalore-London-New York-Santiago for want of DATV. Considering the fact that the opposite parties is equally negligent in providing necessary information to the complainants we hold that, the complainants are entitled to the compensation of Rs.50,000/- at the rate of Rs.25,000/- to each of them.

8. So for as, the refund of the cancelled ticket for onward journey is concerned admittedly on 09.02.2008 itself the complainants requested Ms. Reshma, the staff of the opposite party to cancel the onward tickets of Bangalore-London-Santiago sector and processes refund in that regard. Alleging non-refund of the cancelled tickets the complaint is filed on 06.12.2008. In the version it is contended that fallowing standard guideline prescribed by International Airport Association with regard to the refund of the cancelled tickets they have refunded Rs.6,436/- towards unused taxation on 08.05.2008. This fact that the opposite party refunded Rs.6,436/- on 08.05.2008 is not disclosed in the complaint filed on 06.12.2008.

It is not in dispute that each complainant paid Rs.84,509/- for onward and return journey and they proposed to cancel tickets for onward journey. Considering the fact that Rs.84,509/- is the cost of the ticket for round trip, the cost of the ticket for onward journey comes to Rs.42,254/-. Admittedly the complainants paid Rs.13,000/- on 04.01.2008 for rescheduling the onward journey. Since they purchased new tickets for onward journey on 09.02.2008 at the airport the opposite party is liable to refund a total sum of Rs.55,250/- towards unused tickets for onward journey. The opposite party claims that it worked out the refundable amount on the basis of International Air Transport Association guidelines. The opposite parties has also produced the copy of Chapter-14 of the guidelines dealing with refunds. Chapter-14.1.3 deals with Voluntary Refunds and provides as under:-

14.1.3 Voluntary Refunds:-

14.1.3.1 Voluntary refunds will be computed as follows:

(a) If no portion of the ticket has been used refund will be the full amount of the fare paid, less any applicable service charge and communication expenses;


(b) If a portion of a ticket has been used, refund will be made in an amount equal to the difference, if any, between the fare paid and the applicable fare for travel between the points for which the ticket has been used, less any applicable service charge and communication expenses.”


According to the above provisions full amount of the fare less any applicable service charges and communication expenses is to be refunded if no portion of the ticket has been used and in case a portion of the ticket has been used the refund will be the difference between the fare paid and the applicable fare for travel between the points for which the ticket has been used. From what is stated in Para-26 of the version we are unable to make out how the opposite party has arrived at Rs.6,436/- as the amount refundable to the complainants. It is not disclosed that any portion of the tickets for onward journey was used by the complainants. In the absence of such information the opposite party becomes liable to refund the entire fare paid less the applicable service charges and communication expenses as provided in 14.1.3 of the guidelines of International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Therefore the opposite party is liable to refund the entire price of the ticket paid by each complainant deducting the applicable service charges and communication expenses if any. We are unable to up hold the contention of the opposite parties that the complainants are entitled to refund of only Rs.6,436/-. We are not convinced with the claim of the complainants for grant of compensation of Rs.9,00,000/- for each of them towards mental agony, torture and shock as has been claimed in the complaint. In our opinion, the grievance of the complainants will be resolved by awarding compensation of Rs.25,000/- to each of them as stated earlier and directing the opposite party to refund the sum of Rs.55,254/- to each of them towards the cancelled tickets deducting the amount already refunded and the applicable charges and expenses. In the result, we pass the following:-

ORDER

9. The complaint is Allowed-in-part.

10. The opposite parity is directed to pay compensation of Rs.50,000/- to the complainants i.e., Rs.25,000/- to each complainant.

11. The opposite party is directed to refund Rs.55,254/- to each complainant towards the cancelled tickets less the amount already refunded and applicable service and other charges.

12. The opposite party shall also pay costs of Rs.5,000/- to the complainants.

13. Compliance of this order shall be made within eight weeks from the date of communication.

Comments

  • edited May 2014
    please check my booking reference 6a8jrd which was rebooked on last friday 1-week before and still didn't receive my e tickets. we need to go to italy embassy to indorse visa but without ticket same is not possible. our flight is next monday and in usa sat/sun days are closed and no chance to get the visa and fly as no reissue of ticket yet done.
    asper call center british airways all ways said it will be done and mail to you by 24 hours of time but it never came till today another friday. we have taken leave asper our booked schedule and onward hotel and car rental and different places we will visit has been booked and if don't get our ticket by 8am losangeles / usa time today then we are to go for lawsuit for the full refund as not reissued the tickets, embassy payment, harassment, mental torture and related huge mental agony, upset of such negligence from british airways that jeopardize our dream vacation.
    we request the highest authority of british airways or its representatives to take immediate action and help us to mail the reissued e-ticket on-sight. please help.
    journey on 02jun lax-lhr-rom and return on 17jun rom-lhr-lax. passengers: mohammad masudur rahman and kiswara sultana.
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